Picked-and-Rolled: Chicago Bulls 107, Milwaukee Bucks 100

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose drives against Drew Gooden in the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

The Milwaukee Bucks put forth a game effort in Chicago but fell to the Bulls, 107-100.

The absence of Andrew Bogut loomed large against a team destined for a long playoff run. The Bulls pounded the Bucks on the offensive glass to the tune of 20 rebounds, including eight by Joakim Noah. And Derrick Rose, without the deterrence of a shot-blocker on the court, scored 34 points (14/24 FG), most of them from close range on his natural right-hand side.

The Bulls repeatedly ran a high pick-and-roll with Rose, with the screen set to free Rose to his right.  Chicago wasn’t particular about his partner, either.  They didn’t care who set the screen, just so long as he was guarded by Drew Gooden.  Once Jennings was caught on the screen, the Bucks had no choice but to switch, and Rose was free to go past/over/around Drew.

It was a strategy that would have failed with a healthy Bogut in the game.  Tonight, however, it worked to perfection.  Hopefully, other teams aren’t lying in wait to catch on, but they don’t necessarily have a Derrick Rose, either.

Brandon Jennings had another pleasant performance, scoring 25 points (on an efficient 10/22 FG), grabbing 7 rebounds, and distributing 3 assists. He does, however, have to cut down on the reaching and poking, while making a better attempt at staying in front of his man for a few dribbles.

Drew Gooden put up solid numbers:  22 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists. It’s tough to fault that kind of stat line.  However, his jump shot misfired at key moments (he was 2/8 on shots longer than 15 feet) and his defense was lacking. Give him credit, though, for playing out of position with Bogut out.

MVP: Jon Leuer

Jon Leuer scored 19 points in 19 minutes while making 9 of his 11 shots.  His deft scoring touch helped the Bucks whittle away at a 14-point fourth quarter lead, but the Bucks never cut the lead under five points (and that didn’t happen til the final minute).  Leuer has a knack for sliding into the soft spots of a defense and preparing for a pass before it gets there — a knack unmatched by the long list of other power forwards on the Bucks.

LVP: The Three Amigos of Small Forwards (Jackson, Delfino, Dunleavy) Occasionally Miscast as Shooting Guards

The trio shot a combined 5-for-23 from the field.  Delfino and Dunleavy were non-entities in abbreviated appearances.  Jackson played 35 minutes and dished out 5 assists.  He had some positive impact on the game and he commands attention on the floor.

But there are times that he has to drive Scott Skiles nuts.  In one play, in the final minute of the first half, Jackson chucked up a three-point attempt that barely grazed the rim.  With the shot in the air, he took a step back with his man, Ronnie Brewer.  Then he inexplicably watched Noah rebound and take a few dribbles while Ronnie Brewer leaked out and caught an outlet pass for an uncontested dunk.

This should ameliorate you…: A moral victory

One game after losing their most important strategic piece to injury, the Bucks went on the road to face the best team in the East.  The Bulls faced an odd sort of “must-win” scenario with a loss at home Wednesday and a nine-game road trip looming.  And yet, the Bucks still had a chance to win. If they had made another three-pointer or two, they could have pulled this game out. If, if, if, if…. is a very dangerous word.

…And this should worry you: the Achilles’ heels are still ever-present.

The Bulls attempted 33 free throws.  The Bucks took 16 free throws.

The Bucks were outscored 28-18 in the third quarter.  In their last five games without Bogut, the Bucks have lost battle of the third quarter by margins of 31-24, 34-25, 34-19, 23-18, and 28-18.

With Bogut out, the combination of bad pick-and-roll defense and lack of size on the defensive glass leaves Milwaukee incredibly vulnerable to points at the rim.  This shot chart bears that line of reasoning out.

Final Verdict:  A Grade of Incomplete on the Report Card

The Bucks get an immediate shot at redemption tomorrow night when the Lakers come into the Bradley Center.  Their pick-and-roll defense may not get tested as much, but they will absolutely have to do a better job snagging defensive rebounds against Los Angeles.  The pair of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum can wreak havoc there (see, for example, the 2010 NBA Finals Game 7).

The Lakers are only 1-6 on the road this year.  If the Bucks eliminate LA’s easy baskets, they should be able to earn a passing grade at home.